Vitality and Great British Chefs cook up a treat with Martin Wishart

Vitality provides health and life insurance. Their difference? They help you stay fit by offering incentives for proof of healthy habits. Last Saturday they partnered with Great British Chefs to run an event for a handful of their clients who had won a three-course dinner by Martin Wishart. I was there.

Martin Wishart in Action.

Martin Wishart in action.

Most people in the room are wearing fitness trackers, all look healthy, all have glasses of champagne in their hands. We’re standing in a loose group around a beautifully laid table: white cloth, spring-pink flowers, glittering glass and silverware.

We’re waiting for the evening’s star: Martin Wishart. The woman next to me points out what a coup it must be to have him on a Saturday night. She’s got a point. Martin enters and explains what’s on the menu: gazpacho with asparagus mousse and langoustine, cod with mussels, peas and parsley and, finally, hay parfait with pineapple sorbet. It sounds delicious and we bask in expectation. There’s a twist: we’re cooking the main.

Watching Martin Wishart

That’s why we’re at Edinburgh New Town Cookery School. You have to work for the best things in life. So after our silky gazpacho – Martin’s made it with an eye to luxury so it’s got a splash of cream – and butter-sweet langoustine, we head to the demo room.

Martin shows us how to cook cook with a sauce of shallots, garlic, white wine, fish stock, mussels, peas and parsley. He makes it look easy. And it should be. But by the time we’re in the kitchen, it’s beginning to look tricky.

Martin's dish at the top, then the progress of my cooking and my final dish bottom right.

Martin’s dish at the top, then the progress of my cooking and my final dish bottom right.

I chop my shallots, hoping it’ll look like I’ve got decent knife skills. (I don’t.) We’re cooking, laughing, enjoying the challenge of remembering the recipe and figuring out how to control the heat under our pans. That was my downfall: I left the cod on a little too long so it flaked in the pan then didn’t want to be the last person in the kitchen, so didn’t reduce the sauce quite as much as I should have. Sounds like a car crash, right? It wasn’t. The recipe is such a sure-fire it was delicious even as cooked by me. I’m looking forward to cooking it again. In the calm of my own kitchen – before champagne – I’ll get the timings just right.

It’s always a pleasure to visit ENTCS. The staff are unerringly friendly and helpful, whether pouring wine, helping me disappear an empty plastic water bottle or making sure no one hurts themselves in the kitchen.

Plating with hay

After the mains, we return to the kitchen to plate dessert. It’s a competition of flair and creativity. I liked the way Martin plated and did a slightly off-centre version of that. The winner of the competition won a three-course meal with a Great British Chef chef. Lucky girl!

With the dessert we have a cocktail by Will Cox, of Devil’s Advocate fame. It was a refreshing blend of Wild Beer’s barley wine, lactic acid, Ailsa Bay whisky and a couple of other interesting ingredients: smoky, light and sour all at the same time. It wasn’t to everyone’s taste but I enjoyed it. Will kept it at a low ABV so we wouldn’t fall over after dessert.

Will Cox pouring a Furlong.

Will Cox pouring a Furlong.

And that was a good thing since the night wasn’t quite over. Before we tottered into the night, we had goody bags to collect and Martin signed copies of The Complete Robushon, a book that’s inspired him, for us.

What a night! Obviously, not every Vitality client will enter a competition, or, indeed, win an experience like this, but the ones who do are very lucky. I had a really nice evening and had great conversation with both organisers and winners.

Caroline was invited to the event by Vitality.

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About Caroline von Schmalensee

Cooking, eating and drinking is fun as well as necessary. I do food for fun and I write for a living. Good food makes the world a more delicious and satisfying place. Good writing, meanwhile, can make the world a less confusing place.

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